What Podcasters Can Learn From Tennis Players
Processes and practices are a surefire way to increase your skills. But they don’t always help you broaden your podcasting horizons. Which is why, for your next project, you should collaborate with people who are better than you.
It’s all about cozying up to people this week: The big aggregators, the keepers of the data, or the people who might provide you a way to earn serious money for your next show. Today, I want to talk about another class of people who you should cozy up to who can help your next podcasting project be even better: Other podcasters who are better than you.
I am not a great tennis player. I don’t think I played tennis since I was a teenager. And I don’t believe that I have picked up a tennis racket in at least ten years. So this is not about tennis. But one thing I know from my time playing tennis as a much younger man is that, while you can improve your skills by hitting the ball against the wall and drilling on the fundamentals of the game, the only way to really get good at tennis is by playing people who are better than you.
This rule applies to just about every sport. One of the reasons why, after 30 years of playing, I’m not any better at disc golf is because I don’t play with professional disc golf players. Instead, I play with people at my level. Compounding the problem; I introduce a lot of people to the game, none of whom are any good when we play their first round. So because I’m playing with people at or below my level, I’m probably never going to get demonstrably better at disc golf.
The same self-induced skills-limitation holds true in podcasting.
Many of us, if we’re collaborating at all, tend to podcast with friends or peers at or near our same skill level. Many join online groups or attend conferences with the hopes of gaining some insight or tricks from better podcasters. And while that certainly can help, it’s a far cry from actually collaborating with other podcasters who are better than you.
To stay on-theme for this mini-series, you should cozy up to them.
That can be hard. Issues of introversion and imposter-syndrome aside, it’s not like talented podcasters post “collaboration wanted” signs on their virtual windows. Proximity to talent is also a huge factor. If I had a hard time finding podcasting pros when I lived in Bangkok, those living in a small rural town in Iowa are likely to have an even harder time.
But if that’s not your situation, I want to encourage you to actively seek out people who are better than you. Not for a mentorship-mentee relationship. (Although those are great, and if you need a mentor, you should totally find a mentor.) I’m suggesting that you, the working podcaster, find people in or near your own community who are better than you at podcasting.
By fate, luck, or just the randomness of the universe, there are two people in Phoenix who fit the bill for me. Wil Williams, long-time podcast critic and podcast fiction force-of-nature, is transitioning out of her day job to focus on freelance podcasting life. And I recently met up with Sam Walker, the award-winning broadcaster and podcaster recently transplanted from Manchester in the UK to Phoenix with, among others, BBC chops.
These ladies are great at what they do. Both of them approach podcasting from a totally different angle than I. They are true podcasting professionals and, most important to this angle of this article, are better than me.
The conversations on how the three of us will work together have just started, so you’ll have to wait for the exciting Wil-Sam-Evo collaboration announcement. Heck, we haven’t even scheduled our introductory dinner meeting.
Again, I’ve specifically chosen these ladies because they’re better than me at the things that they do. I’m sure I won’t be dead weight, as I bring my own set of skills to the proposed collaboration. And it’s possible we won’t find complimentary ways to work together. That’s always a risk. But it’s one I feel is worth taking, as I always want to make my next thing to be better.
My challenge to you is to do what I have done. Find the people (hopefully locally, but virtually can work as well) who you get along with, have some share thoughts and ideas, but — and this is the important part — are better than you. Suggest a collaboration. Find ways to work together. Heck, volunteer to work for them if that’s what it takes.
Because the best way to get better at anything is by playing with people who are better than you.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 242nd episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.